The Challenges of Placing a Parent in Long-Term Care

Long-term care is a term that has many facets. Long-term care is comprised of a variety of services that meet people’s medical and non-medical requirements when they cannot care for themselves for long periods of time. It is a highly individualized care system that can be formally or informally provided. Formal facilities that provide long-term care go by various names such as residential continuing care facility, assisted living, nursing home, and personal care facility. In early stages, family members often provide informal long-term care by providing their parent personal care, meals, laundry services, housekeeping, and transportation services to and from appointments.

These informal family member care providers are often referred to as the “sandwich generation” – those people who support their own children while at the same time provide care for their aging parents. This comes at a time when they are generally still working and managing their own day-to-day needs. The stress of providing practical living and emotional care, as well as financial support, for two sets of generations above and beyond their own can become overwhelming and have negative effects on a provider’s own self-care and well-being. It is a difficult decision to make, but at some point formal long-term care becomes a necessity.

When the time comes for your parent to be placed in a formal long-term care arrangement, it can get complicated very quickly. If a parent has not planned for their own aging process, finding the right facility that accepts their health care coverage can be daunting. If a parent has very little income and assets, they may be able to qualify for Medi-Cal. Because Medi-Cal has strict income and asset requirements, however, this can leave the spouse at home with very little to live on.  Elder law attorneys are able to help navigate decisions about Medi-Cal eligibility. An elder law attorney may also be able to protect more assets for the parent who remains at home through legal planning strategies.

Conversely, if a parent is very financially stable, then it may be possible to pay thousands of dollars a month to a quality health care facility. Years of paying thousands of dollars a month, however, can severely impact their savings and ability to leave a legacy to their children or grandchildren. With proper legal advice, a plan to pay for care without losing everything is possible.

What about those parents who are financially stuck in between? It is another type of sandwich, the “financial sandwich” – seniors not poor enough to qualify for Medi-Cal, but not wealthy enough to cover their own costs. There are still options available for those who fall into this category.

Long-term care is becoming more expensive and less accessible as the increasing baby boomer population continues to put a strain on the US health care system. Engage your parents in discussions about the type of care they would want if long-term care is needed, including where they want to receive the care, and how they can pay for it. It’s important to document your parent’s wishes in appropriate legal documents that name an agent to make decisions, if your parents are unable to do so.

I would be happy to help you and your family navigate these issues and come up with a plan to make sure your parents get the best care possible while at the same time helping them guard their life savings to the extent they can with available options.


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